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The Running Man
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101 of 103 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It is the year 2025, TV is truly the opiate of the people, and society is divided sharply between the haves and the have-nots. Ben Richards' family is in the latter group. He's been unfairly blacklisted and his wife has had to resort to hooking to pay the bills. Meanwhile, his baby daughter lies ill with the flu - perfectly treatable if only they could afford it. Desperate and at the end of his rope, Richards opts to participate in a game show called "The Running Man." He is to become the quarry in a deadly hunt that will last no more than thirty days. For each day he successfully evades his pursuers, his family earns a large sum of money.
No one has ever lasted more than eight days.
The games network, of course, hardly plays fair. The rules require Ben to periodically mail in videos, thereby running the risk of giving his location away. And rewards are given for any information leading to his apprehension, so Richards is also playing against a bored and bloodthirsty public -- in other words, everyone. The ongoing hunt is very suspenseful, but it's when Richards finally confronts his true nemesis that things get really interesting.
As I was reading I couldn't help thinking that this story was ready-made for film. It moves along at a rapid pace, especially once the game is underway. It's not simplistic, but neither is it complicated enough that it should require much tampering. (I've not yet seen the movie, but from what I have heard they somehow dropped the ball. Too bad.)
The concept of reality TV probably seemed outrageous or at least far-fetched in 1982, when The Running Man first appeared. Now it seems disturbingly prescient. Though the book belongs in the science fiction genre, it is more frightening than many of his horror stories. One warning about this edition: the story is prefaced by an introduction lifted from the earlier Bachman Books publication, and for some reason King gives away the ending in it. Maybe it's an editing oversight. In any case, save it until you've read the book. It will allow you a more powerful reading experience.
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132 of 138 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2009
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I am only leaving this review for one purpose, to warn you about a spoiler in the intro. Don't worry I am not going to spoil it for you to. In the intro by King called The Importance of Being Bachman, he quite literally tells you the ending. It took a lot of the fun out of the book, and I just wanted to let others know that the spoiler was in there.
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87 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
So this would have been the first Stephen King book I read cover to cover. I was REALLY excited with the story line and could not wait to start reading it. The mistake I made and am warning you about is that during the introduction "The Importance of Being Bachman" King gives away the ending!!! Not just a "Oh, and then something negative happens" but "Blah, blah, and then he blah blah" specifically. If you want to enjoy the book (as I am CERTAIN I would have) DO NOT READ THE INTRODUCTION!!!!

Who does that?? Yes, I get it, it has been republished so you want to add a note, but for those who would have picked up the book for the first time (never had seen the movie either so I don't know if it tells the true ending) the book has been ruined!!!. . . I always pictured Stephen King as a smart man. . . WRONG!

So please! Add a HUGE SPOILER warning before you give the ending of a book before the story even starts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read online reviews of Richard Bachman/Stephen King's novel The Running Man, and some of them claim that this book lacks a certain something that relegates it to being the worst of the Bachman Books. For the life of me, I can't understand why anyone would think that. As far as I'm concerned, The Running Man is not only one of Bachman/King's best books, it's one of the best straight-up action novels I've had the pleasure to read.
When you think about it, there are a ton of action movies out there, but not very many action novels. Sure, you have a plethora of low-grade action series, such as Mack Bolan, Remo Williams, etc, but there aren't very many stand-alone, pure action novels. The Running Man is one, though, and from beginning to end it's a thrill a minute.
I grew up in the `80s, and of course loved the Schwarzenegger film, loosely based on this book. Matter of fact, I still do. But the movie just doesn't compare; whereas it's goofy, WWF-type fun, the novel is dark, brutal, and brimming with mean-spirited, hardcore action. Ben Richards, the scrawny, underfed, cynical protagonist of the novel, is a far cry from Schwarzenegger's he-man. This is one of the best features of the novel, witnessing the "pre-tubercular" Richards (per King's description, in his "The Importance of Being Bachman" foreword) take on the forces sent against him.
According to King, the novel was written over a 72-hour period, and the published version supposedly isn't much different than that first draft. This speed of writing is reflected in the novel: it chugs along like a No Doze-popping trucker. Whereas most King novels are bogged down by excessive description and detail (something King is normally criticized for by the literary critics), The Running Man is a trim, fat-free exercise in the concept of "less is more." A grander scheme (and theme) is hinted at in the subtext of the book, but like all good novels, it isn't beaten over your head; the story itself is the star, and after reading it you'll reflect on the little details ingrained within.
Since this is a Richard Bachman novel, expect his trademark, downer ending. However, the ride there is exciting and excellent, and this is one of the few Bachman/King books I would consider re-reading in the future. The novel begs for a more faithful film adaptation; the modicum of description, the streamlined action and characters, and the black humor dripping from the dialog all make the book read like a well-done, action-packed screenplay.
It's never been considered a part of the subgenre, but I think The Running Man is an early example of what has become known as cyberpunk. Though it doesn't feature the trademarks normally associated with the genre, such as computers and hackers, the atmosphere in which the novel takes place - a grim, technology-ravaged, depressing world in which a large wall separates the rich from the poor, and the media reigns supreme - could come straight out of William Gibson, or even the film "Blade Runner."
Simply put, The Running Man comes highly recommended, whether you're an action fan, a King aficionado, or even if you're looking for an introduction to the world of Stephen King/Richard Bachman.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you have ever wanted to read a book purely for the sake of enjoyment, then "The Running Man" is definately for you. Written by King in his early days, this work displays all of the author's talents outside of those involving horror to create a story that is impossible to put down, and prone to numerous re-readings, especially because of its size (just over 200 pp). Just to warn you, this book has NOTHING to do with the motion picture that starred good 'ol Arnold quite a few years back. If the movie did have anything to do with this book,...well, let's just say that it would have been much, much better. The story revolves around one of King's simplest but best literaty characters, Ben Richards, who exists in a futuristic world of disease, capitalism and the all-important "free-vee" that has brainwashed the planet and caused massive seperation in the classes. In order to save his wife and young daughter from a terrible fate, Richards enters the free-vee's most popular game-show, The Running Man, where he voluntarily becomes the most wanted man on earth in order to survive 30 days and receive his billion dollar prize. ANYBODY is capable of turing him in, and trust me, this element alone adds to the story in such a way that causes the pace becomes frantic and the excitement to reach a fever-pitch numerous times throughout the story. Whether or not you a King fan, this book is a DEFINATE MUST-READ. If you want to read a book for yourself and just for kicks, than look no further. Read "The Running Man!"
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's 2025. The world's poor live in abject poverty while the rich live in highrises ignoring the starving masses grovelling around them. Dissent is repressed by heavy handed police, and the ironically named Free Vee (the TV went out of style years ago) with its sadistic game shows. These macabre shows - with names like 'Fun Guns' and 'Dig Your Own Grave' - tempt desperate slum dwellers with quick cash but in order to obtain the prize money the contestants must put their body and pride on the line for the enjoyment of the millions of viewers across the world. One man, Ben Richards, driven by the inability to provide for his wife and influenza stricken daughter, decides to join the hundreds of impoverished who line up before the enourmous Games Building for a chance to win the elusive prizes. Richards however is different from the average drug addict or street bum who tries out for the games. He's fit and smart - exceptionally smart. So intelligent that he's picked for the most grueling show of all: 'The Running Man'. A game where the player must try to stay free as long as he can as he tries to hide from the rest of America and a group of elite special forces called the Hunters. If the contestant is caught before thirty days (an impossible goal) the game is over and the contestant killed.

I immiediatly began to enjoy the main character, Ben Richards from the very start. King creates a typical outcast of society, and rebel of authority but then adds a more sensitive side to the character. Balancing Richards' scathing wit with his powerful love for his family the author makes Richards both intensly charismatic and convincing. Defintely one of my favourite literary characters ever. However King doesn't stop there. The supporting characters are all really realistic as well especially people like Evan Mcone - the sinister leader of the Hunters - and Bradley - the streetwise visionary who is attempting to start a revolution.

King also adds a little bit of satire in his novel. In 'The Running Man' he brings to light how TV is a dangerous weapon which can be used against people. The Free Vee in his novel is a horrible object which pumps propaganda and manufactured happiness into the homes of millions across the nation. It easily suppresses the masses who would otherwise rise up in rebellion. With America today inudated with war propaganda and mindless reality TV shows it is not difficult to find the parallel between the story and reality. In times like these this novel gives an important warning that not everything you see on the boob tube is real.

The novel combines this satirical edge and realistic characters into an exciting storyline which will keep you 'running' through the book as fast as you can to reach the action packed conclusion. An excellent intelligent thriller every one should read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Citizen-neglecting government. Truth of horrible realism. Self-serving, spiteful nation. These are a few of the themes that are portrayed in Stephen King's novel The Running Man. This action packed thriller is one of King's best novels. There are 100 chapters in The Running Man, and at only 300 pages, there are only three pages in a chapter on average, giving this book an excellent plot and lots of action. There are many characters in the story, but the major character is Ben Richards, who enters a contest in the future in hopes of winning money to buy medicine for his daughter who has an unknown disease. The game is called 'The Running Man' and the game is just as it sounds. The contestants will be set loose onto the world where he will try to survive his enemy - the world. The individual who successfully kills Richards receives ten thousancd dollars from the government who runs the series of life-taking game shows including Treadmill to Bucks where heart-attack and stroke prone contestants run until they drop. Ben Richards must survive the horde for one month or die. He lays his trust on no one; doing so will get him killed. He must also survive the hunters, a trained group of people who's jobs are to hunt down and kill the contestants. Richards will do anything, incluiding killing others to survive, if not for the money, then to spite the government. The Running Man is a great book that any thrill-seeker would enjoy. It's a short read, only being about 300 pages, but a good one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 30, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
For those who have only seen the movie, this book will not be what you expect. It seems that the producers of the film only wanted the bare concept about a life and death TV game show and then made up their own story from there. This Ben Richards is a volunteer who wants to earn enough money to pay for his daughter to get medical care. He is a fairly bitter man in a bleak world and the overall tone of the novel is largely pessimistic.

Regardless of the dark tone, this is still an entertaining book. Richards is not the most likable character, but the network executives and hunters are so odious that you can't help but root for the underdog. The story moves along fairly briskly and there is enough character development to make you care what happens to Ben and his helpers. This may not be one of King's best novels, but it makes for an entertaining read and I would recommend it on that level.

One word of warning, however. King has added an introduction in which he gives away the ending to the book. Why an experienced writer has done something so foolish is beyond me but the knowledge badly damaged my ability to read and enjoy the book. If you have not read Running Man before, I highly encourage you to skip the introduction until after you have read the story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
I have seen the film version of The Running Man a few times over the course of my life and have always kind of enjoyed watching it. It's just a good old-fashioned action flick with plenty of excitement and explosions and things of that nature. I had always wanted to read the original novel by Richard Bachman but just never got around to it, until recently when I came across it in Blackstone's online catalog.

It became clear right away that the novel was going to be a lot different than the film. I don't mind that so much in general. Films are always different than the novel because you can only do so much on screen. In the film, Ben Richards is a white cop who was forced to play The Running Man because he found out his bosses were crooks. In the novel, Ben Richards is a black man from the ghetto who voluntarily enters the game to win money for his family. In the movie, Ben is dropped down into a closed off arena and hunted by several American Gladiator rejects. In the book, Ben can go anywhere in the world he wants but everyone in the world is on the lookout for him. And so on and so on. The film was way off the mark on this one.

Overall, I would have to say that this was not King's best work. Some of his Bachman books are excellent, like The Long Walk or Roadwork, but this one is merely average. Something I always look for in any book I'm reading or listening to is credibility. Even a work of fiction needs to be somewhat believable. In The Running Man however, I felt that the characters did not always act the way real people would in their situations, and some of the situations themselves were a little too far-fetched for my liking.
The one bright point of this audiobook was the narration. This was my first time hearing Kevin Kenerly narrate, but I liked him a lot right from the start. His voice is very rich and warm and easy on the ears. His character voices aren't the best, but he did differentiate them enough so that you could always tell who was speaking. In general he just sounded more like he was telling a story rather than reading one off the page.

Included in this audio version of The Running Man is a piece Stephen King wrote titled "The Importance of Being Bachman." It is the introduction King wrote for The Bachman Books and it's an interesting take on his Bachman persona. However, if, like myself, you've never read The Running Man before, I suggest you skip the introduction until after you've listened to the story because King idiotically reveals the ending. Thanks for that Stephen.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
We've all heard the story about the writer who booked himself into a hotel on Friday and walked out Monday morning with a complete book in his hands (it was the Bible - he'd stolen it from the room). With The Running Man, though, we have a complete novel that was written in only three days - and was published with almost no changes to that original draft. Is it even possible to write a decent novel in three days? Yes - but, obviously, The Running Man is not your typical Stephen King novel (which is a large part of the reason it was published under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman). Action is the gas pedal, and King floored it from page one until the very end. Surprisingly, though, there is some pretty decent characterization of the main player - and a heavy undertone of social commentary worked into the book.

The setting is a future America in which society has totally fractured, leaving those on the wrong side of the tracks doomed to a life of misery. Ben Richards personifies that social inequity - unable to find work because of his antiestablishment ways (for some reason, he didn't want to keep working at a job which exposed the old family jewels to dangerous amounts of radiation leakage), he can't take care of his family - his wife keeps turning tricks for money, and his 18-month-old daughter has the flu and will likely die without proper medicine. There is only one way out for him - the Network Games. The whole nation is fascinated with the Free-Vee game shows, shows such as Treadmill to Bucks or Swim With the Crocodiles. No show satisfies the bloodlust of the public like The Running Man does, though, and a man of Richards' temperament is just the kind of player the show is looking for.

The game is simple. Richards is paraded out in front of the cameras, castigated as a dangerous low-life, then turned loose on the streets. A few hours later, the show's Hunters begin going after him. Richards wins money for every hour he can avoid capture (and by capture, I mean bloody death - broadcast live to the whole country), with bonuses for any cops killed along the way. Best of all, the viewing public can win money for themselves by turning him in if they see him. Richards proves himself a worthy contestant indeed - the Game in fact, will never be the same.

This is one of my least favorite King novels, primarily because it's so action-oriented. It doesn't put down roots, and it doesn't delve completely into the minds of any characters other than the protagonist. It is, in fact, like a weak film adaptation of a King novel - stripped of all the nuances that make King such a special writer. That's not to way this isn't an exciting novel because it is - that's about all it is, though.
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